Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sealed in Wax

It seems like summer just arrived a few weeks ago for many here in the Pacific Northwest, however the bees are already a few weeks into their fall preparations.  The girls are closely attuned with mother nature regardless of what it might be doing at the moment and have to stay a season ahead in their actions in order to compete and survive.  They have been building their winter army and using wax to seal up the nectar they have cured into honey to feed them over winter.  So far it is looking like a decent year despite all the spring and early summer rain.

Nectar from Globe Thistle

Inspections are getting a little trickier this time of year because you need to be fast as not to trigger robbing, but also careful not to over stress the delicate comb.  Beeswax melts around 145-147F, but can get a bit putty like when it gets above 100F range.  Bees do an amazing job of ventilating their hives to keep the brood around 95F either by generating heat or fanning to cool the hive.  This time of year those combs are packed full of honey right up to the tolerance point that the combs can support and pulling them out can potentially cause them to fail under their own weight.  Capped honeycomb turned sideways will essentially "melt" into your hands under the weight of the honey.

On the topic of robbing this is basically what it sounds like.  Hives are ready for fall and have lots of food stored and are trying to scale back their numbers so they don't eat through it all before the spring flowers bloom.  If the opportunity presents itself to steal honey from another hive a robbing situation will occur when two (or more) hives may attack and try to overwhelm another hive to steal their honey.  This is often fatal to the hive either because the queen is killed or the hive is left without enough food to get through winter.  A different type of robbing might also be triggered by Yellow Jackets that are not just interested in the honey but also in eating the bees themselves.  It takes several bees to fight off a Yellow Jacket and once they get through the defenses they will head home to tell the rest of their hive.  At the moment the Yellow Jackets are just snooping around and picking off the weak/dying bees outside the hives in the grass.

Sedum is another popular nectar source.

Magnolia blooms.

Artichokes provide nectar.

Fennel is getting a lot of attention right now.

Hive checks (8/11/2012)

Queen Castle 1
Slot 1 - Didn't see the queen today.
Slot 2 - Empty
Slot 3 - Saw the queen again and she's a big blond girl.  Saw eggs and young larvae!  This is a daughter of the Engineers.
Slot 4 - Empty

Queen Castle 2
Slot 1 - This had the bees from Nuc 3 and I moved them back into their older house so this box isn't in use anymore.
Slot 2 - No sign of a queen.  Dumped them out.
Slot 3 - Empty
Slot 4 - Empty

- Saw queen, some eggs and brood, but mostly honey.  Moved empty frames into the brood nest so she will keep building up.

A freshly capped frame of honey that is about ready for harvest.

Due to the heat and a newly drawn weak frame I did harvest a frame of this honey.  It's very different from the frame harvested from the Sand hive in West Queen Anne a few weeks ago.  It has notes of Blackberry, Sweet Chestnut and Mint.

Ballard Swarm
- No sign of a queen and they didn't do anything with the frame of eggs I gave them.  Found a small patch a drones in worker cells which means they have a laying worker.  I dumped them out to join other hives.

Northgate Swarm
- Pissy girls again!  I saw the queen and 10+ torn down queen cells and she didn't look like a new queen, but rather the same one from before.  There are eggs here and there throughout the hive as has been the case for the last month.  I've never worked with Russian bees, but I'm starting to think they might be a Russian breed based on the usual building of queen cells and tearing them down at the last minute.  At the moment there were no queen cells in progress, but I will pull the next one I see into a nuc to see what happens.

Queen running around.  She doesn't look like a young or virgin queen.

Engineer Queen's Nuc
- This hive is growing and she is laying out more of the frames.  They should be back up to strength and ready for another winter in no time.

Engineer Hive
-  I didn't see the new queen this time around and no signs of eggs or larvae.  Added some eggs from the Icons to see what happens.

Hive checks (8/12/2012)
Nuc 2
They are building up and are showing signs they will be good hoarders.  I found a queen cup with a newly laid egg in it.  It was the only one so I removed it to see if they make more.  I also added empty frames into the brood nest.

This hive has turned around and everything is looking good.  There is a lot of nectar, but not much dried yet.  They are looking like they are in good shape for winter.  I saw a few girls dragging drones out as well, so it must be that time of year.

A good brood pattern for this time of year.

Same as last week.  It looks like they might be improving, but hard to say just yet.

There are still a lot of flowers around the neighborhoods to keep the girls busy, but no major honey sources at the moment here.  The Knotweed has started blooming, but I'm not aware of any within several miles that actually has been allowed to flower.  Apparently like many of the other nectar flows here it is considered a noxious weed and on the destroy list.  If there is any around I am sure the girls are dancing in the flowers right now.

Invasive Knotweed delighting the girls with late season nectar.

Back to the bees.

- Jeff

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